Nu’alolo Kai is one of the most incredible places I have ever visited. In one small enclave along the Na Pali Coast; you will experience a beautiful white sand beach with spectacular views at the base of towering cliffs which is bounded by a large barrier reef that has excellent snorkeling. To top it all off, at the base of the cliff is one of the most extensive and well preserved archaeological sites in all of Hawai’i.
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The reef at Nu’alolo Kai sticks far out into the ocean and is visible from the entire length of coast even beyond Ke’e beach. Monk seals often frequent the protected waters here inside the reef and come to lay up on the north end of the beach. When gazing down the Na Pali Coast from the first lookout at Windy Point on the Kalalau Trail; the most distant point of land you see is Alapi’i Point at north end of Nu’alolo Kai. Just south of Nu’alolo Kai is Miloli’i; the cliff in between them is called Makuaiki.
Words truly cannot describe the feeling of being at Nu’alolo Kai.
Nu’alolo Kai is an ancient fishing village that has an extensive Heiau (Hawaiian Temple). In the Heiau there is a spring which used to provide water to the settlement but which turned brackish in recent years when large coconut trees that were growing near it lowered the water table. Those trees have since been cut down and restoration workers are attempting to bring the spring back to life. When facing the mountain, to the left of the spring is a large flat area which is said to be made of one contiguous lava stone. To the right are multiple platforms reaching up the cliff side. On the wall of the Valley is a giant X about 400’ tall naturally formed by crossing vents in the lava which were filled by later eruptions with a more dense stone called blue stone. A rope ladder used to hang at Alapi’I point, connecting Nu’alolo Kai with the farming settlement in Nu’alolo ‘Aina around the corner. Now that the ladder is gone, there is no land passage into Nu’alolo Kai – it is accessible by water only.
Landing a boat is by permit only, if you are coming here by kayak do not pull your boat up on the sand but rather drop an anchor and swim into shore for your visit. For most people, making their own way to Nu’alolo Kai is not feasible because of the difficulty in access.
There is nothing quite like standing at an ancient sacred site and staring straight up a 2300’ cliff fact. In addition to the spring and Heiau, look for petroglyphs near the beach as well as a recently reconstructed canoe house. It is truly and amazing experience; made even richer by learning the history of the place which is shared by their very knowledgeable tour guides.
2023 Kauai Visitor Guides
If you're visiting Kauai soon, be sure to download your copy of one of our updated 2023 Kauai Visitor Guides. We've updated both travel guides with a lot of new great information for potential visitors (and those who've been a time or two as well).